When I enrolled into Jackson College of Ministries back in 2000, I had no idea what to expect. I had grown up attending a small, private school and the thought of going to college where the learning style was completely different was a little frightening.
Thankfully, I fell in love with the school within the first two weeks and made a lot of friends. Most of my closest friends turned out to be members of the staff and the instructors. Two men that made a huge impact on my life were Danny Aber, a former missionary who was Dean of Missions, and Cai Larsen, the Dean of Christian Education.
Cai was from Denmark. He came to the United States as a foreign exchange student to Louisiana Tech where he finished a degree in Child Psychology. While he was attending LATech, he started visiting a church in Hodge, LA. He connected with the church through volleyball and eventually was baptized and received the Holy Ghost.
Cai, though, was still a foreigner. He did things Americans thought were weird, like rollerblading for miles on his way to church and back. And some of those quirks made him an amazing friend. His thinking was backwards from mine in a lot of ways and, just talking to him would open my mind to possibilities I hadn’t thought of before.
After graduating from LATech, Cai attended Jackson College of Ministries where he recieved a BA in Theology. After graduating, Cai, and his wife Gill, were asked to stay as faculty members. Cai took the position of Dean of Christian Education the semester before I enrolled.
When I got to school this foreign guy was an amazing teacher. For one, his accent kept my attention. But he was also so goofy. His slapstic comedy put him in the realm of Jerry Lewis to me. His teaching style was also brilliant. He refused to allow us lazy Americans to slide through his class. He often made students angry because he challenged what they thought to be true but had never studied out for themselves.
Long story short, by the time I graduated, I had worked with Cai on a number of projects. When I graduated, Fred Foster, the president of JC M, asked me to stay as a staff member, and be the advisor to the Theology club. Because I was put into a new position as Marketing Director, or “Computer Guy” as Cai called me, Dr. Foster put Cai as my somewhat supervisor.
That put the icing on the cake and Cai became one of my best friend. Although, he had his “best buddy wayne” we became very close. After Fred Foster retired from JCM, the college closed down to relocate its campus. (Something they are still trying to do, sadly) The staff had to move on. I went south about an hour to Natchez where I became the youth pastor. Cai, went west to Texas Bible College where he would become the Christian Education Dean.
About 6 months after we split up, Cai drove through Natchez and met me at the mall. He asked me if I thought I was done with Bible College. I told him I still had a burning desire to teach at a Bible College but figured it would be a while before I could get back into it. For the following 3 months I would travel to Lufkin, TX to help Cai with a few projects and we stayed closely connected.
As luck would have it, about 9 months after I went to Natchez, the Promotions Director at Texas Bible College resigned to pastor a church in south Texas. Cai called me up and asked me to put in my resume. I did, and before I knew it I was moving to Lufkin Texas to once again have an office right next to this goofy foreigner.
Even though Cai was no longer my instructor, he remained my teacher. He taught me so much through discussions and simple statements. We made stupid videos to promote events at TBC. We acted absolutely stupid in skits for banquets at area churches. And we did our best to spread passion for the work of God in the students we came in contact with.
One thing that was unique to our friendship was the influence of Danny Aber, who I mentioned before. Bro. Aber had tons of amazing little diagrams and lessons he would teach using the whiteboard when both Cai and I were students. Now that we were both teachers, and Danny Aber was pastoring in PA, we would race each semester to see who could use the “Aberisms” first.
I would also use the cool stories Cai used when he was my teacher to which he would cry out, “you thief! you stole that!” when I would tell him what I had done.
Through all of the ups and downs of academic life, Cai remained a close friend and, whether he knew it or not, an invaluable advisor to me in all my life’s problems.
Almost two years after I moved to Texas, Cai was killed in a tragic accident at his home. He was cutting down a tree when a branch fell out of the top of the tree crushing his skull. His wife and their three children were suddenly plunged into grief.
Since then, I have had to adjust to life without that friend that I could talk to about anything. I have yet to find another friend like Cai. He taught me so many amazing things inside and outside of the classroom.
This post series will be on the things Cai taught me. Some will be complex, some will be extremely simple. But these are the little things I will never forget about my friend and mentor.
Things Cai Taught Me